Sam Khanal began working in the industry when he was 16, helping run his family’s restaurant in Nepal. Three years later, Khanal immigrated to the United States to be with his brother in the Bay Area.
He landed a job as a server at the popular South Bay-based Amber India. After noticing an influx of customers were traveling all the way from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties to Amber, Khanal realized the demand for good Indian food on the Central Coast.
In 2007, Khanal opened Ambrosia India Bistro in Downtown Monterey and followed with additional locations in Aptos and Scotts Valley—he also has a to-go version in Cannery Row.
“Everywhere we opened was based on customer demand,” Khanal explains.
The menu boasts traditional North Indian cuisine, including butter chicken in creamy tomato sauce and a roasted rack of lamb marinated in ginger, garlic, yogurt and spices. For dessert, one of the longtime customer favorites is the mango panna cotta, served with a touch of cardamom.
Visit ambrosiaib.com for hours at the various locations. Khanal recently spoke to us about his restaurant’s food and the impact inflation has on his business.
How is inflation impacting your business?
SAM KHANAL: Before the pandemic, a case of chicken used to cost $38 for 40 pounds, and right now, the same case is about $120. Shipments of ingredients like rice and spices used to take a month to arrive, and right now, they are taking three-to-four months to get here and also cost three-to-four times more. This is why you see not just Ambrosia but almost all restaurant prices going up. We don’t want to charge more, but in order to be in business and survive, we have to keep up with the market.
Tell me about North Indian food.
It has the perfect blend of spices, and it is considered very good for your health as well. It has heavy amounts of fresh spices like garlic, ginger, turmeric and many more. These spices are considered healthy for the blood and help maintain a healthy body to live a normal life. Whereas Southern Indian cuisine focuses more on coconut and more spice, Northern Indian food is more curry-based and medium spiced.
6006 La Madrona Drive #D, Scotts Valley. 831-713-5594; ambrosiaib.com.